Today of course is a humbling day, for all of us. No one forgets where they were 10 years ago today or how they felt. No one forgets those who were lost. And I think few people forget to stop and be grateful for what they have. The first thing I did this morning was say thank you. The hard part is reminding yourself to do it every day, not just on days like this one.
Yesterday I was also reminded how grateful I am for this farm, for my partner in life, for my animal family. As chaotic as life gets, and as difficult the world is to deal with sometimes, these things remind me what is really important and that the rest doesn't really mean anything at all.Our farm truly is our sanctuary, mine, Kevin's, and the animals. It's our safe haven. Sometimes the world outside tries to penetrate our safe place, but the truth is, they never really do and they never leave a lasting impact here. The only thing that leaves lasting impacts here are baas, whinnies and woofs... big and small. Spotted goat noses, and beards, and turkey snoods.
Yes, even turkey snoods.
Today was a big day on the farm. In a good way, and a bad way. We try to live off the land as much as we can, but also in harmony with it. For a long time it's been a question of ours, whether or not raise our own food. We grow our own food, yes. And the idea of raising our own food, to both of us, is a good one, parts of it. The part about knowing where the animal comes from, how it was treated, what it ate... those are good parts. The bad parts are obvious.
Our farm and our animals are mostly misfits who wouldn't have had a chance anywhere else. We have a one eyed turkey, a cow with three toes and crooked legs, a blind ram, many goats who needed hundreds of dollars worth of medicine and care to keep them alive and get them well. We've had dozens of rabbits whom no else wanted to care for, so we did.
But we are still a small farm, and I believe, in our own way, homesteaders. Homesteaders with modern conveniences mind you.
We have decided we won't be able to raise our own food when it comes to larger animals, but we decided to try chickens since it's difficult to find farm raised chicken in our area and I can't stand buying it from the store - not when I have the ability to do it myself. If I had no choice, that would be different, obviously, some people have no choice and if you want to buy it from the store, that's fine too.
I just didn't want to. I thought over the winter this would be an important lesson for us. So moving on... we've had these 8 birds. They are big, they are mean, which is good, I hoped they would be. But they should have been processed a while ago. We considered selling them, almost did a couple times. We considered just letting them naturally die off, which they would, since they are bred for meat they are bred to pack on the meat (and then after that loads of fat.) Unlike other breeds of birds.
I realized it was important for us to do this, I think we both did, but it was probably the most difficult thing we've ever done on the farm. It wasn't fun. We did a lot of research, we had a lot of discussions... we avoided it. But now it was time.
So we processed one bird today. It was a big job, I can't imagine how either one of us could have done it alone (OK maybe Kevin could have). But once it was done, put away, and my kitchen was cleaned, I felt something I never expected (earlier I did get emotional and start to freak out for a few moments.) I felt... calm. I felt grateful.
This bird grew up in the spring in my living room. I kissed him goodnight every night, fed him, watered him, cleaned him. All summer he had a big yard to roam around in and dust himself and eat bugs. I picked worms out of the garden for him... dug them up with my bare hands. He ate fresh corn from the garden and fresh fruit and vegetables several times a week. He was never stressed or unhappy. He had a clean coop full of straw to sleep in, safe from predators. He lived a good life, which most chickens don't. I did my best for him and I worked hard to keep him safe and content. I thought knowing all this would make my heart break... and it did, a little, but not completely. And then... I felt the power of the story from beginning to end, and rewarded for all our hard work. It's a complex thing, but for us, for me, especially, it was an important thing and full of important lessons.
I debated whether to share this or not, but it was important day for our farm and for us, so I thought it was important to do so.
There was enough meat to feed five people from this chicken. We have a ton of it saved into stew meat, legs, etc.) We were not wasteful. I used all the leavings for chicken stock which simmered on the stove all afternoon.
For dinner tonight we'll have BBQ chicken which is marinating in the fridge, and along with it chard casserole. The potatoes, the chard, the tomatoes, will all come out of the garden.
It's hard work. All of it. It's hard work mucking manure. It's hard work trying to save a sick animal, or deliver a newborn. It's hard work never being done, always having bigger projects and more jobs to be started in front of you. It's hard work doing the difficult things on a farm, and dealing with both life and death sometimes.
But at least to me... it's worth every minute, and every tear, all the sweat, and the aches and pains. It's worth it for the goat noses, and kisses, the smiling dogs, the wagging tails, the faces that greet me every single morning with anticipation for the new day ahead.
It's even worth having to endlessly sweep bird feathers, seed, and Prairie dog poo from the floor.
And for all the hard work that went into the meal we'll eat tonight.
That will have been worth it too.